By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — In a modern society where our idols are sports stars, musicians and actors and our heroes wear masks on the silver screen, it’s an unfortunate truth that the real heroes are often all but forgotten.
True heroes don’t wear capes and they aren’t vigilantes. They wear uniforms and are bound by a code of honor that most people will never fully understand or comprehend.
Real heroes are the men and women of the armed forces, who willingly go to the worst places on earth to do things that haunt their thoughts and dreams for the rest of their lives. They make these sacrifices willingly and for little pay, traveling far from home to lands where people don’t want them there and often hate them for being there. They put their lives on the line, constantly facing danger and frequently watching as their brothers and sisters in arms die far from home.
They don’t choose where or when they go, they leave family and friends behind all to fight for an idea that most people take for granted, freedom.
Throughout the history of this great nation countless men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice and on this Veteran’s Day I choose to remember my friends who made the trip home in a box rather than greeting their loved ones and returning to a normal life.
These men and women hold a special place in my heart. They are people that I will always love and remember as dear friends. They are people I shared my proudest and happiest moments with; they were there for me during the hard times and the good times. We were comrades and many of them are no longer here.
Although gone, the memories of these brave people will live on with those who served beside them. Often, these people were the bravest and toughest people I’ve ever had the honor of meeting. They knew the risk and accepted the possibility that they might not make it out alive.
It didn’t matter. To these people, the honor was so much greater than the cost. They were true warriors.
Every day hundreds of thousands of warriors face life or death situations, instinctively reacting to situations. They are responsible not only for their lives, but also for the lives of the men and women to their right and left. Selflessly, they make decisions that last forever, some pay the ultimate price just to save their friends, never to return home. The ones that do come home often return with scars that the naked eye can’t see. It’s the hero’s price.
Our true heroes come home with both physical and emotional scars. They’re unable to express themselves because they feel like no one understands. They come home having seen and done unspeakable things in the service of their country. They come home to news of protestors at military funerals and to people that inquisitively seek to find out how similar Call of Duty is to the real thing. They’re asked “how many people did you kill?” and are forced to relive thoughts and memories that would cause a weaker spirit to shatter. And yet they shoulder their burden and they carry on.
As a U.S. Marine veteran and having just had a brother returned from serving in Afghanistan, I can confidently say our veterans do not get the thanks that they deserve. They don’t expect thanks and they’ll never ask for it, but they deserve it.
So during this time of year, when we honor our veterans, I choose to thank those veterans past, present and future that have made the decision to serve our country. I want them to know, from one veteran to another, I appreciate what they have done for me. I want them to know I am grateful for their sacrifice.